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Tallullah Elle: Underground Style, Roath, Cardiff

We love this post by Loren Cotter that she wrote back in February of this year.  We told her about our blog, and she’s very kindly agreed to us re-posting it – so here it is, a critique of style and fashion shopping in Roath:

Underground Style – Roath, Cardiff

 If Roath is seen as the creative hub of Cardiff, and if art and fashion are synonymous with one another, can it then be assumed that the mainly residential area has some of the city’s best shopping?  Truthfully, no.  It would be false to gush that Roath is a must-visit for traditional shopping – there are far too many uninspiring retailers letting the area down.  However, Roath does have a burgeoning underground fashion movement that allows style-conscious residents and visitors to pick up some offbeat ideas and bargains – if they know where to look.

The most obvious place to start scouring for curiosities is in one of the Roath’s charity shops.  Due to the persistent popularity of vintage, the appeal of shopping in the area is heightened by the number of charity shops that can be found on both Wellfield and Albany Road.  These shops do not differ much from one another; they are satisfyingly cheap and stock the usual books, bric a brac and used clothing, along with some gems that can be found in amongst the tat if you’re prepared to rummage.  Don’t fret if you have neither the longing nor the patience, Cardiff’s YMCA Housing Association are pioneering a 50’s and 60’s-inspired charity boutique on Albany Road called PreFab, using the public’s which groups vintage items under one roof for ease of purchase.  All proceeds go back into the charity, so the customer gets to experience a pleasant shopping environment while donating to a good cause.

More quality vintage can be found at one of the markets that pop-up in some of Roath’s most avant garde spaces, along with craft items, up-and-coming designs and unusual jewellery. Intriguingly, these markets are not put on in conjunction with retail spaces, but with multi-faceted venues that are associated with the arts such as Milgi Lounge and Milkwood Gallery. Milgi’s Northcote Lane Market in particular has gone from strength-to-strength since its conception in mid-summer 2007, with stalls spilling from inside the bar to the backyard yurt to the lane behind it on every first Sunday of the month, depending on how many sellers are contributing their wares at the time.  The market runs between 6pm and 10pm on this chosen Sunday and has the kudos of being popular with local residents and celebrities alike – actress and renowned quirky-dresser Jaime Winstone has been spotted delving through the bargain bins while wearing a rather zany Navajo-printed jacket. Milkwood Gallery hosts a Flea Market at various times throughout the year, and has a permanent shop selling all manner of quirky items – from human-shaped beanbags to jewellery from the cult brand Tatty Devine.  Homemade fashion is also actively encouraged at Milkwood, with drop-in sewing surgeries and Make Do and Mend classes (where you learn from an expert how to shape an item of clothing out of scrap fabric, from scratch) occurring on a regular basis.  In fact, this ‘make do and mend’ attitude is clearly taking off in Roath, with The Gate Theatre launching a similar project called RE: Fash on the final Wednesday of this month, in which attendees will be given ideas on how to revamp any piece of clothing to make it look high-fashion, at the cost of £5 per class.

Whether a response to the recession or a random fad inspired by the fashion industry’s continued love of vintage, this interactive approach to fashion and style is innovative, exciting, and – in terms of the Cardiff area – completely exclusive to Roath.  There are also, of course, plenty of great boutiques (Halcyon Daze, Seven, Big Girl’s Blouse, all on Wellfield Road) in Roath which balance out the poor ones.  Yet the grassroots fashion scene seems to be bolstering Roath’s reputation as an artistic area and is a far more exciting approach to fashion.  It will be interesting to see if it can continue to develop and thrive, with or without the help of the shops.

(Images: Peace Love and PolkadotsMilgi facebook group, discothequeconfusion, Milkwood Gallery)

Visit Loren’s blog here: http://tallullahelle.blogspot.com/

And read the original post here: http://tallullahelle.blogspot.com/2011/02/underground-style-roath-cardiff.html